Becoming Steve Jobs, the latest Jobs biography, written by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, received high-praise and support from Apple and its executives. One of the original members of the Macintosh development team, however, has published a post on Medium outlining why he thinks Steve Jobs would have not liked the biography. Andy Hertzfeld says that the harsh and negative tone applied to the early part of Jobs’ career at Apple and NeXT is unfair and not true.
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Hertzfeld, who worked closely with Jobs on the original Macintosh, believes that the authors of the biography did not do their due diligence when it came to interviewing early Apple employees on the attitude and character of Jobs. Hertzfeld also wrote that he believes the authors spent too much time focusing on the early part of Jobs’ career and not enough on his maturation as a person and leader.
Hertzfeld on the harsh telling of Jobs’s early career at Apple:
In the early days of Apple, Steve helped instigate the personal computer industry with the Apple II, starting from scratch, and then revolutionized it again with the Macintosh, achievements which would be the most significant of a lifetime for practically anyone else. The authors hardly interviewed any Apple employees from the early days, so there’s no new reporting here to justify their negativity; they seem to be trashing Steve’s early career simply to accentuate the contrast with his later one.
The Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson was seen as the gold standard of Jobs biographies until both Tim Cook and Jony Ive expressed their dismay towards it recently. Hertzfeld disagrees with the remarks of Cook and Ive, but notes that they are probably trying to do what they believe is right for Jobs’ family.
What’s going on here? This sentiment is obviously extremely convenient for Brent and Rick, since it provides a raison d’etre for their book, but that doesn’t explain why Apple is going out of their way to promote it, especially given the sour treatment of early Apple and NeXT. My regard for Tim Cook and Jony Ive couldn’t be any higher, so I think they are somehow trying to do what they think is best for Steve’s legacy and family.
Finally, Hertzfeld notes that while Becoming Steve Jobs is worth a read, it doesn’t live up to the Isaacson biography. Hertzfeld claims that the Isaacson book is what Jobs wanted in a biography, and also what he deserved.
Steve Jobs got the biography that he wanted and deserved: a best selling, well written, unbiased, comprehensive account of his life and work by the biographer of Einstein and Franklin. As much as he valued simplicity, Steve was a complicated man, full of contradictions, so there’s plenty of room for many different takes on his life and legacy.